#WontBeErased: US 'trans policy shift' sparks protests

Demonstrators gathered outside the White House to oppose an unreleased Trump administration memo that proposes a strict definition of gender and would roll back transgender rights.

The hashtag "Won't be erased" is trending in the US.

The hashtag "Won't be erased" is trending in the US. Source: Twitter: @HRC

LGBTQI+ activists mobilised a fast and fierce campaign that included a protest outside of the White House on Monday to say transgender people cannot be expunged from society, in response to an unreleased Trump administration memo that proposes a strict definition of gender based on a person’s genitalia at birth.

The existence of the draft memo, the administration’s latest effort to roll back the recognition and protection of transgender people under federal civil rights law, was reported by The New York Times on Sunday morning.

Within hours, the hashtag #WontBeErased circulated on social media. By Sunday evening, a rally for transgender rights took place in New York; another took place Monday in Washington.

With the White House as their backdrop, speakers repeated the phrase “We will not be erased,” which has become a rallying cry against the proposal. The 45-minute rally, attended by what appeared to be at least several hundred people, repeatedly referred to the coming midterm elections and encouraged people to vote.

Masen Davis, chief executive of Freedom for All Americans, a bipartisan group that works for nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, told the crowd the memo seemed to be motivated by an attempt to “score political points in an election.”

“This is not a red or blue issue, this is a human issue,” he said, to cheers and applause.

The Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government funding, according to the memo obtained by The Times.

The new definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable and determined by the genitalia a person is born with. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights at the department, declined to answer detailed questions about the memo.

Under the proposed policy, such discrimination would not be protected in the view of the federal government, said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a senior attorney with Lambda Legal, which works for LGBT rights and helped organise Sunday’s rally.

But in practice, he said, transgender people would still have legal protection because the courts have ruled that they are covered under the umbrella of sex discrimination.

3 min read
Published 23 October 2018 at 7:59am
By Sarah Mervosh, Christine Hauser @ New York Times 2018